Pubdate: Thu, 24 Mar 2016
Source: Ukiah Daily Journal, The (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Ukiah Daily Journal
Author: Linda Williams, The Willits News


The Willits City Council medical marijuana regulation ad hoc 
committee comprised of Mayor Bruce Burton and Councilman Larry 
Stranske recommended a total ban on marijuana cultivation and other 
pot-related businesses inside the Willits city limits. The 
recommendation came at Monday's special meeting of the council.

Following extensive public comments and an opportunity for each 
member of the council to speak, no action was taken and no future 
date was set for any further action on either a ban or to discuss 
potential opportunities opened up by the Medical Marijuana Regulation 
and Safety Act.

The council did request City Attorney Jim Lance continue his efforts 
to streamline the processing of nuisance complaints, such as 
accumulated garbage, roosters, health hazards, shrubs, abandoned cars 
and nuisance pot grows, which have resulted in dragging out the 
nuisances and caused the city to levy significant liens on residents' 

The City Council met on March 21 in the special session, because some 
members were not available to meet on the regularly scheduled March 
23 meeting date.

The ad hoc committee has been looking at potential revisions to the 
city's medical marijuana ordinance for several months. The current 
ordinance already bans all businesses, such as marijuana testing 
facilities, dispensaries and delivery services within the city 
limits, and restricts marijuana cultivation for medical private use 
to secure indoor locations. The committee provided examples of 
ordinances from the cities of Merced and Petaluma to be considered.

The committee's recommendation drew a large group to the council 
chambers, reacting to word of a potential ban.

Most of the crowd, and all but two of the 17 members of the public 
who spoke, were very supportive of expanding marijuana access within 
the city and throughout Mendocino County. Most who spoke were not 
city residents and many seemed unaware of the strict restrictions 
already in place within the city limits.

Since sales and cultivation of marijuana is a federal crime, the City 
Council would be complicit in a crime if it licensed marijuana 
facilities, according to Burton. He also wanted Willits to be seen as 
the one place in the Emerald Triangle not endorsing marijuana.

District Attorney David Eyster disagreed with Burton on the federal 
enforcement of marijuana laws, citing the funding riders Congress has 
used in recent years to restrict the U.S. Department of Justice from 
overriding state marijuana regulatory activity.

Eyster said that after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Medical Marijuana 
Regulation and Safety Act last year, Brown sent a letter to the 
Department of Justice advising that the state would be regulating 
medical marijuana within California.

Burton remained unconvinced.

While Stranske and Burton were steadfast against any and all 
marijuana activity within the city limits, the other City Council 
members did not share this view.

Councilwomen Madge Strong and Holly Madrigal were unwilling to 
consider further restrictions to patients and caregivers being able 
to grow their own marijuana and were hoping to consider newly 
regulated cannabis businesses, such as testing facilities or 
dispensaries. Strong would even consider allowing some cultivation 
outdoors for personal use, as long as it could be done without 
negatively impacting neighbors.

Councilman Ron Orenstein agreed with Stranske and Burton on the 
corrosive impact of marijuana on the Willits community. Despite this 
perspective, he says he is willing to consider using the state 
marijuana regulations to allow the city to reap taxes from some 
future marijuana businesses and fund more enforcement personnel. He 
also said he was worried any ban approved by this council had the 
potential to be changed by a future council.

Stranske reaffirmed his views on the negative impact marijuana has 
had on the Willits community, based on his observations from 35 years 
of teaching in local schools. He spoke of seeing bright students 
turned into drones by their junior year through marijuana use.

Stranske said that marijuana is downgrading the community. He also 
reminded the audience he has two more years remaining on his term and 
that he will probably choose to run for another term.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom